The challenges related to access to water are aggravated by climate change which has an impact on water resources in the Sahelian region.
Access to quality water is a concern in many African countries, including Chad. Chad is part of African countries where inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene services put children at extremely high risk.
Researcher Abdallah Mahamat Nour explains to Aliou Niane of The Conversation Afrique the reasons for the low rate of access to water in this Sahelian country and what must be done to improve the quality and availability of this resource for the populations .
Access to water – for drinking and domestic use – is a major challenge in Chad. How serious is the situation?
The distribution of this access is very uneven across the territory, with some areas being more alarming than others due to geological, climatic and other factors.
In the basement areas (in these areas, the aquifers are discontinuous and the water is located in the geological structures) in particular, where drilling has a relatively low success rate, access to water is particularly difficult. Existing water points in rural areas built by the Chadian State or by partners are often shared between several villages, forcing residents to travel long distances and devote hours of walking to access them.
In some regions like the lake chad province, the population uses water taken directly from open wells or from ponds, without any treatment. In these areas, women and girls are often responsible for collecting water for domestic use. This forces them to walk long distances to find water, causing health and safety problems.
Water quality is also a problem in large cities, for example Moundou, or in certain districts of the capital N'Djamena and its outskirts which are supplied by individual boreholes which are not controlled and may be located near latrines or cesspools, which increases the risk of water contamination and the spread of waterborne diseases.
Finally, the challenges related to access to water are aggravated by climate change which has an incident on water resources in the Sahelian region. Periods of drought are more and more frequent and water resources more and more limited. This has a direct impact on the food security and health of local populations.
In sum, the situation of access to water in Chad is very worrying and requires urgent attention to improve the quality and availability of this vital resource for local populations.
What is the government doing about it? Does it work?
The Chadian government has developed several strategic plans and orientation documents, particularly the Water and sanitation master plan in 2003, Water Code and National Sanitation Policy and Strategy in 2013, to improve access to water in the country. However, despite the efforts made, the results are mixed. Program implementation is often hampered by technical constraints – lack of detailed studies, unqualified service providers – and financial constraints, as well as by insufficient coordination between the various actors involved in the water sector. Moreover, the management of water resources is complex and requires in-depth scientific knowledge, which can also constitute an obstacle to the establishment of effective policies.
What are the possible solutions to meet Chad's water needs?
Chad has considerable water resources both surface and underground, but these are limited by the lack of knowledge about these resources. The failures observed in most programs aimed at improving access to water are partly due to the absence of recent scientific studies and to an under-use of available knowledge. The main reason is that in the study area, there are no recent studies due to limited means and the extent of the area.
Thus, before any implementation of actions in the field of water, it is essential to consult the scientific knowledge available to reduce the risk of failure.
The studies we are currently conducting as part of the pilot program African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE) on the hydrosystems of the Lake Chad Basin provide a better understanding of the vulnerability of water resources in a region where access, potability and sustainability of water are crucial.
The results of these studies, not yet available, could be used to develop a new conceptual framework for interpreting the data. hydrogeological in the Lake Chad Basin region and in the wider Sahel region. They could also help water resource managers to take hydrological and hydrogeological data into account in the water resources assessment process.
By improving the hydrological information available in the region, a better knowledge of the real situation and the dynamics of the hydrogeological processes can be guaranteed. This can provide important information and characteristics about the renewability of processes hydrogeological efficiently, quickly and economically. This is essential for groundwater resource managers to ensure the long-term sustainability of this very important socio-economic resource for the entire Central African region.